Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam: Imaginarium of Dr. Panasus

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) - Gilliam
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a messy, unnecessarily elaborate and candy colored fantasy that only Terry Gilliam could conjure up. Thankfully, it works! It concerns a traveling troup which includes Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), his soon to be 16 year old, scrumptious daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), his sidekick Anton (Andrew Garfield), who's secretly in love with Val and a midget Percy (Vern Troyer). Even though Dr. Parnassus can make your dreams come true, it's a hard sell with a shabby setup at the back of the supermarket parking lot. One night, they stumble on Tony (Heath Ledger) under the bridge with a noose around his neck. When he comes back to life, he doesn't remember his shady past. For young Valentina who wants a normal life, Tony gives her a glimpse of hope. But it's not a love story. It's more of Dr. Parnassus show. He made a deal with the devil (enigmatic Tom Waits in his usual bowler hat) for eternal life and the wager was his daughter. And so on and so on. The characters are paper thin and so as the premise but the fantasy must go on...

Dr. Parnassus plays out like a Gilliam's greatest hits, featuring all his old elements that made his films enjoyable- idealized gamine (bordering pedophilia), moneyed up python-esque animation sequences and backdrops, zany homeless people, and characters running around yapping nonsense the whole time in one corner of the frame. It's a big circus. And the every school-girl's-wet-dream aspect (Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell taking turns playing Tony in Imaginarium) is a total overkill. It also seems Gilliam had a hard time deciding how to end the film. But I have to say the overall visual craziness and mad energy held my attention. If you want a satisfying story, keep away. But it's Gilliam's best since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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